Posted by: Bill Griffin | May 24, 2009

The Nuance of The What’s Up Nod

redcross_volunteerTHE NUANCE OF THE WHAT’S UP NOD

  Like any American who requires sustenance in this day in age, I trod toward the local grocery store. It was a fairly uneventful day; I was just going in for a few items. I grab a trusted trolley with one cockeyed wheel and a shopping I go. Because I didn’t have much to purchase I took the half moon counterclockwise route. Hopping aisles, pitch right, grab item, back up left, and move on. I was making time, determined to take only 15 minutes.

 Ready to acquire my last item, I check my list of six. I gaze up, and there stood a guy who gave me a quirky smile and then; THE WHAT’S UP NOD. Admittedly I’m not very good with names, but faces I do remember. I did not know this man, never seen him before. I’m not shy, if you say hi I’ll say hi, put out your hand and I’ll shake it. Sometimes I’ll even initiate. Then I realized what had just happened. I’ve been given the what’s up nod by a perfect stranger.

 Instinctively and with the great timing of a jazz percussionist I up nodded back. We move on. A flush of thoughts flew through my head like a mathematical savant. When was the last time I received the what’s up nod, and by whom and, what is up with the what’s up nod? Particularly from strangers.

 My thoughts immediately raced to when I used to bring my daughter for doctor check ups at Mass General in Boston when she was baby. It was a good ways away and a transfer of subway lines. I remember strolling her down the street and receiving numerous what’s up nods from people I didn’t know, and always from men. Women don’t give the nod, I’m not sure why, they just don’t. Women would actually use language if they wanted to communicate with me, usually something about the baby. “Oh my gosh how adorable!! How old is she? What’s her name?” etc…

 Also, I seem to get this simple salutation seemingly for some kind of approval of my existence; but why? Is it nervous politeness? Mistaken identity? Never have I recieved the nod at a standstill. Always one or both parties have to be on the move.

 Human manual communication systems are vast and subjective. Greetings in particular vary across cultures. Asians bow, Americans high five, Europeans kiss cheeks and toward royalty, curtsy. Hand shakes and hugs are a very common welcoming. The military salute, boaters wave at each other, street gangs “throw down” signs. Athletes pat each other on the boom boom. Harpo Marx would instigate a hand shake, and then offer his leg instead while honking his horn. Thumbs aloft seem to be Sir Paul McCartney and Arthur Her453785636_c6082ab17a_m[1]bert Fonzarelli’s welcoming gestures.

All this came to mind from a subtle nod from some one I don’t know. Everything considerd, I believe the what’s up nod indicates a polite aknowledgment with-out the initiation of conversation; an understanding of sorts. Fair enough, I’ll take it and move on.



  1. Hi Bill,
    Congratulations on the new blog. The set-up is excellent.

    I agree, I have only received the “What’s up” nod from men and women usually say something.

    Maybe men are more visual and women like to communicate more. Better stop here, I don’t want to get into trouble.

    Congrats on the first blog. I look forward to additional posts.


    • Thanks David,
      I asked my wife why women don’t “up nod” and she couldn’t comprehend doing so. I suppose it’s still mystery.

  2. Hi Bill,
    the blog looks great. Congratulations to getting it started. We’ll all nag you when it takes too long between updates 🙂

    Karl Heinz

    • Thanks Karl Heinz,

      You saved me alot of heart ache trying to get the finishing touches done.
      You are are one super groovey dude!

  3. Bill, I think women in general have always been more “conversational”. Men haven’t and the silent nod is understood between men. They dont like to make a scene, that spot is left for women.

    I think that nod, actually says a whole sentence depending on the situation. Along with the facial expression, the conversation can be positive or negative and all in just a nod.

    Just my opinion of course. Keep blogging, I haven’t started yet. But want to soon.

    • Thanks for the female prospective Cheryl.
      Yeah ones gotta be careful with “the nod” it could have been a misfired sneeze.

  4. I really enjoyed reading that. It was so insightful and I can’t believe all that ran through your mind. It really isn’t a mystery why woman don’t “nod up”. It’s totally a guy thing. Woman prefer to use there voices and actually carry on a conversation where men just prefer to grunt or nod. That is from Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus. Interesting book. Anyway…..I am so looking forward to reading more of your blogs. Congrats on the first….it was great!! Love Ya!!

    • Thanks Kimby,

      This was alot more fun than I ever thought. As far as the book; men are from Mars and women are from Venus, I’ll wait for the movie. Long ago someone gave me a book entitled Women are from Earth and Men are from Uranus.. I hated it.

  5. Very interesting and something I haven’t considered. I do believe that men in general are nicer to each other than woman are. This is something that should be considered as to why.

    • Take president Valerie,
      start “up nodding” the ladies around your community. You might be surprised. Bring a video camra though I don’t want to miss a thing.

  6. Billy,

    Very astute and well written. Perhaps you’ve found your next career! I’ve always believed in treating the genders equally so have nodded to men and women, giving the women a bit extra for being female and offering a wink as well. After being slapped for the first hundred times I did it I realized that women are different and just don’t understand the “wazzup” nod. Perhaps the “wazzup” nod has evolved from the old (and I thought humorous) Budweiser commercials. We’ve gone from having to say “wazzup” to now just nodding to one another (and not winking). I’m kidding about my winks of course, but I do admit to an occasional nod which in my mind just signifies a common bond with whomever I nod to. We’re just similar men, with wives, kids, interests and challenges acknowledging one another as we pass in a moment of time. My wife doesn’t understand why I don’t want to chat about my day. She just doesn’t understand; why talk when a nod will do.
    Great job, I enjoyed it and will be anxious to read the next one.

    • Thank you Jim,
      So we could call it “the empathy nod”. One dude saying to another I hear your pain, drudging through the streets of Boston with an infant or shopping for stuff that clearly you’ll never use. In regards for the women slapping, for years I thought that was thier “what’s up nod”

  7. Bill, I enjoyed your blog and the comments. Writing is rewarding when you can see that you’ve piqued some one’s interest.

    Your topic reminded me of a thought I have on the comparison of man and lion. It’s interesting but controversial. Since I don’t want to start a male/female brouha, even for fun, I’ll expound when I see you and you can decide.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Steve,
      I must say I am a little surprised about how-many people took to the whole gender angle. I spent much more thinking energy on whether to leave the Fonz in or not.

  8. Hey Bill….. Nice job.. keep blogging… I think I would get in trouble with what I feeling like saying to the public.
    Men nod no matter if you know them or not… a silent way of saying hello without any real emotion.. none the less but a split second of emaotion. Women stop and say ” what a cute little girl…she must be 2 1/2?” Women don’t want to be miss understood for stopping and interupting your day. Many people here in Maine like to wave, even if they do not know you… I feel more apt’d to wave as a sign of feeling good and freindly.
    Loose the Fonz…! LOL

    • Thanks Craig,
      Good to hear from the Maineiacs. My point in the this Blog ( I think) was to try to figuer out what the motivation behind “the nod” is, as-far-as modern day communication is concerned.
      So far I think everybody agrees on the general understanding; even in Maine. I like waving it isn’t done enough. Forrest Gump likes to wave at Lieutenant Dan while walking off his gliding shrimp boat into the water. HI Lieutenant Dan!! Splash!! Crash!! —hehehehe
      Fonzie stays but is preparing to jump the shark. Good to here from you Craig stay tuned, there will be more. Say hi to Eddie Spaghetti for me.

  9. The dude abides

    • I just want my rug man. Hey cute, what is that a marmet?–classic stuff

  10. WOW BILLY! Very well written! It’s funny and good to know that other people think about the funny little quirks too! My mind chases around simple questions and rarely comes to any definite conclusions, except that there may really be something wrong with me! LOL
    I think I’ll become a “boom boom” patter next! The nod thing just doesn’t interest me as much! Gotta love the greeters!
    Great blog. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Steph,
      It’s funny how I put this in a Blog and there is an obliging dialog. If I initiated this conversation in person I’d get “The What the hell are you talking about Look”
      One would remember “The Boom Boom Patter” better than any of the other greetings listed, that’s for certain. Where does the line start? Do I have to get a ticket, like at the Deli?

  11. Great blog post. Something I had not thought about but somehow knew exactly what you were talking about. Thanks!

    • Thank you Mike.

      You pretty much sumed up what I,m trying to do with my posts.

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